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ICA’s charitable projects in Nigeria earns an award for them

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Sanjay Jain

Chief Sanjay Jain is the President, Indian Cultural Association (ICA), Lagos, Nigeria. He spoke on the significance of Pravasi Bhartiya Divas (PBD) — Non Resident Indian Day — where his association got the ‘Pravasi Bhartiya Samman Award’ (Non Resident Honour Award) from Government of India at the 16th PBD Convention held in New Delhi, India. to GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR writes

JANUARY 9 is significant to India, as it was the day Mahatma Gandhi, father of the nation, returned to India from South Africa. To give cognisance to the date, Government of India decided to celebrate ’Pravasi Bhartiya Divas’ (Non Resident Indian’s Day) on this date.

As part of activities celebrating the day, the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) is given to deserving Indians/associations/institutions. The award is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians/institutions by President of India.

PBD convention is the flagship event of the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and provides an important platform to engage and connect with overseas Indians.
The theme of the 16th PBD convention was “Contributing to Aatmanirbhar Bharat” as propagated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The usually grand event was limited this year to a virtual platform celebration due to the COVID -19 restrictions, but that did not reduce the significance of the event in any way.

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Prime Minister Modi had inaugurated the PBD convention via video conferencing and the event held in a virtual format, as were PBD conferences held in the run-up to the convention.

The inaugural session was followed by the two plenary sessions. The first plenary on Role of Diaspora in Aatmanirbhar Bharat, which featured addresses by External Affairs Minister and the Commerce and Industry Minister while the second plenary on Facing Post Covid Challenges— Scenario in Health, Economy, Social and International Relations was addressed by Minister of Health and Minister of State for External Affairs.

The finale was the valedictory session where President Kovind delivered his address to mark the occasion. Speaking with The Guardian on the event’s significance, the ICA President, Chief Sanjay Jain, said, “it gives me immense pleasure in sharing with you the newest feather to ICA’s cap of service and commitment to the Indian community in Nigeria. We remain committed to community welfare and we will continue with the same stride of blessings that enables us to do more charitable work for the needy.”

According to Jain, “The awards are conferred to select Indian diaspora members to recognise their achievements and honour their contributions to various fields.” Jain said, “as the name implies, this special ceremony celebrates Indians who have taken residence in other countries outside India. Initially, the Non-Resident Indians Day celebrations were held every two years, but when statistics showed that there are 33 million non-resident Indians living in countries all over the world, the present-day government made the celebrations an annual event. But these awards are announced once in two years. The Indian government made many publications and implemented campaigns around the world on this effect.”

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ICA is the biggest association and umbrella body of Indians residing in Nigeria. It has been in existence for over 50 years in the country. Born in Rajasthan state of India and working in Nigeria for close to three decades, Jain said that the entire Indian community of Lagos, Nigeria, “is elated with joy as this is termed as an historic event.

It is the very first time that such an award is bestowed to any individual or institution in Nigeria. And since it has been awarded to Indian Cultural Association, which is an apex body of Indians, it gives them a great sense of accomplishment.”

Lots of charitable projects were undertaken into ICA’s scope due to his visionary thinking, which not only brought smile on the needy Nigerians’ faces but also earned good name for the Indian community in Nigeria.

“The association gets actively involved in the welfare and social programmes for the Indians as well as for the Nigerian communities. The Association is involved actively on the local Nigerian community’s upliftment and also endeavours the Indian members to mingle with other communities, thereby creating a serene and calm environment. The association regularly conducts the Indian cultural event and festivals also,” Jain said.

The motto of ICA is “Brotherhood through Culture”. Its objectives, among other things, are: To promote cultural integration between India and Nigeria and to engage in and support programs to assist less privileged among the host communities

The association has continued to support projects in Nigeria with a view to strengthening relations between the two countries. According to him, the association has initiated many projects that are aimed at developing the society.

He stated that the objective of the association is to do a lots of charity work for the needy in Nigeria and to convey a message to the Nigerians that the Indians care about them. Indians have integrated so well with the Nigerian culture.

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Jain informed that ICA is involved in several charitable projects such as – providing water facilities to hundreds of schools, supporting the old age homes, contributing to various destitute centres – including the one at Oko-aba location, supporting the number of orphanages, giving assistance to some rehabilitation centres, jointly supporting the artificial limb project & eye surgeries project with HMF.

He further informed that during the period of Pandemic, ICA has done several projects to support the needy people. Some of them are as follows: “We started with food distribution program, wherein jointly with Geetha Ashram & Jhulelal Sindhi Association, 37,000 food packets were distributed during the lock down period to support our Nigerian brethren. The programme was highly appreciated, as it was the need of the hour at that time. To have control on the Pandemic, ICA distributed free facemasks and made people aware to wear it. Free posters were distributed to paste outside the factories and residential compounds – conveying the message – no mask – no entry.”

Several webinars were organised to raise the awareness in these testing times. No touch hand washing machines were installed at several places facilitating people to wash their hands without touching anywhere and remain safe. Made provisions for oxygen cylinders for emergency use.

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